A Researcher Tried To Buy Mental Health Data. It Was Surprisingly Easy.
Monday February 13, 2023. 07:40 PM , from Slashdot
Sensitive mental health data is for sale by little-known data brokers, at times for a few hundred dollars and with little effort to hide personal information such as names and addresses, according to research released Monday. From a report: The research, conducted over the span of two months at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, which studies the ecosystem of companies buying and selling personal data, consisted of asking 37 data brokers for bulk data on people's mental health. Eleven of them agreed to sell information that identified people by issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, and often sorted them by demographic information such as age, race, credit score and location.
The researchers did not buy the data, but in many cases received free samples to prove that the broker was legitimate, a common industry practice. The study doesn't name the data brokers. Some of the brokers were particularly cavalier with sensitive data. One made no demands on how information it sold was used and advertised that it could offer names and addresses of people with 'depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety issues, panic disorder, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and personality disorder, as well as individuals who have had strokes and data on theirs races and ethnicities,' the report found. '[T]he industry appears to lack a set of best practices for handling individuals' mental health data, particularly in the areas of privacy and buyer vetting.' the report found.
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